The Drummond Wall

Below are pictures (taken by Bill Smith) and three articles about a beautiful dry stone wall in Ontario that is in danger of being destroyed.

This historic wall runs north/south along the Fuller Ave in Midland Ontario.



I grew up on therocky islands of Georgian Bay until I was a teenager when my parents Frank andNita Rourke moved us to Sunnyside on the outskirts of Midland.


It is many years since I livedin that house by a stone wall but sometimes, on my way to Penetanguishene, I take a slow drive by to have a look and remember our time there as a family.

I drove by the propertyrecently and saw work being done next to our old place. It got me thinking andconcerned about it and the wall.


Located up the hill behind ourhouse was a beautiful, old wooden mansion that blended into the surrounding giant fir and maple trees. On either side of the entrance to its driveway were hand cut stone Cairns with "Georgian" carved in one and"Lodge" on the other.



A stone wall ran parallel from the GeorgianCairn a fair distance along Fuller Drive. Extending from the "Lodge"Cairn was another high, long, stone wall running the length of our property just behind our house. Unlike the two entrance Cairns, no mortar held the walls together, just one stone resting on the other in perfect support. Great, tall maples ran along the driveway all the way up to the mansion.

My father, in retirement, spent many a hot summer day sitting under an old maple tree on our side of the wall, watching several generations of chipmunks scamper around and over the stones.

Sometimes, over the years, oneor another of the stones dislodged and one of us was dispatched to find where it had fallen and put it back in place.




The Rourkes considered the wall a work of art. It was the first thing they saw leaving the house and the first on arriving home. Frank especially appreciated the feat of engineering the wall represented. His father, Edward, had been an accomplished stonemason; his workmanship can still be seen at "Summerset", up the shore near Sans Soucie.

After Frank died, Nita continued living in the house next to the wall. One day, to Nita's horror and sorrow, the Lodgecaught fire and burned to the ground. Over time the forest grew over the blackscar. All that remained to remind the world that people had lived there were the long, stone walls and the "Georgian" and "Lodge" cairnson either side of the driveway.

I dropped in to visit with the staff at the Huronia Museum on my way home that day. I had read in the Midland Free Press that the Museum had acquired a Military Cross awarded to a young Midland man, Kevin Drummond, who, like me, moved to Sunnyside as a youngster. He was killed in World War I in France. Midland's Town Council loaned theMuseum the $10,000 to buy the medal and some of his other artifacts.

As I was looking through the many things that belonged to the young man, I came upon a round mailing container. The name and address were to Mr. J. J. Drummond, Georgian Lodge,Midland, Ont.

I was stunned! It was the address of the mansion that once stood up on that hill behind my old home.

I've learned since that Kevin Drummond was born into a close knit, successful, accomplished family. His uncle, William James Drummond, even then, was a famous writer.Today he is considered one of Canada's iconic writers and poets. Kevin's other two uncles, George and Thomas got the family involved in iron production and,in the late 1890's formed the "Canada Iron Furnace Co. Limited in Midland,an ideal location with access to ships and a rail line.

John Drummond, another brother and Kevin's father, was also involved in the business. He drew up plans for the building of the iron foundry in Sunnyside, designed the mansion and supervisedthe building of the whole project. The final touch was the stone walls, their beauty and craftsmanship like a jeweled necklace draped around the estate. In1901 all was ready and John moved his family, wife Annabelle and their three sons and daughter, into Georgian Lodge.

I checked through the book,"Midland on Georgian Bay" by Bill Northcott and Bill Smith where I found an early picture of the property. The house is there off in the distance in a more or less treeless landscape; another building on the property sits not far to the right in the picture. I seem to recall that building. It was large,perhaps a drive shed or stables for horses and carriages. The Foundry is located down the hill from the house at the shore but the picture is too early to include the stone walls.

"What an amazing thing to do", I thought to myself, "for that family, used to living in a cosmopolitan city like Montreal, with music, art galleries, shops mature trees and family, to up and move to such a seemingly isolated, barren place."

Kevin was eleven, the youngest of the boys. The Drummond children attended Midland schools and during these years the stone walls became part of the property. I like to think of the children watching the craftsmen at work as the wall grew around them, providing beauty to the landscape. Later, Kevin returned to Montreal to attend McGill University. Graduating as an engineer he returned to Midland to work in the smelter and, once more lived at Georgian Lodge. As most young men did at the time, he joined the militia, serving in the 35th Battalion Simcoe Foresters for 2 years until 1916. With war going on in Europe he joined the 76th Battalion inBarrie. In that same year, as the war worsened, he transferred to a Montreal regiment, the 24th Battalion, Victoria Rifles of Canada, becoming a Lieutenant with the move. He was shipped overseas and on April 9th, 1917 was wounded atVimy Ridge.

He was awarded the MilitaryCross.

It states in the"Supplement to the London Gazette", 18 July, 1917: "Lt. Kevin Stewart Drummond Can. Infy: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.Though wounded he successfully led a bombing attack against an enemy machine gun. Earlier in the advance, seeing the men had lost direction, he rallied them and led them to their objective."

His wounds were severe requiring several months to recover. But, in January of 1918, in good healthonce more, he returned to the war in France. On the 8th of July Kevin Drummondwas killed in action.  

"Such a long way from home." I thought to myself. "A long way from the quiet strength and safety of the stone wall at Georgian Lodge."

My thoughts returned to the package I was holding. I opened the mailing package and there, in my hand, was Kevin Drummond's Military Cross!

I wish the Drummonds could see their property now, covered in forest, tall stately trees winding their way up the property where the house stood. The walls still stand, still beautiful,each stone relying on the other to survive these 100 years.

All that remains in Sunnyside of the Drummond family and their contribution to Midland's history are those stone walls and, in the Huronia Museum, the symbol of Kevin Drummond's bravery and devotion to duty, his Military Cross.


As I drove away from the Museumthat afternoon, I worried about the future of the Drummond Wall. I e-mailed Midland's town offices asking if there were plans for it. Andrea Rabbitts, town planner, informed me by e-mail: "The work currently being done is along Everton Drive and will not impact the Drummond site. The Heritage Committeerecently recommended to the Council that the town designate the Drummond Estate Wall under the Heritage Act, as a feature of cultural heritage." And:"The matter will likely be discussed at the November 23rd Council meeting." The Huronia Museum and Midland Town Council performed their version of "a devotion to duty" in acquiring Kevin Drummond's Military Cross. They know that a community must keep the reminders of their citizens' courage, bravery and devotion to keeping our town, our country free. Kevin Drummond gave up his life for us and for Canada.


It is our turn now to step upand do our part. Take some time and drive over to Sunnyside, rest your eyes onthe Drummond Wall. The portion behind my folks old home is most visible; Seeits beauty and symmetry, look at how each stone supports the other and makes it strong. Go to the Huronia Museum and see Kevin Drummond's Military Cross and medals of others who were brave beyond duty. They are humble symbols to honour the strength and devotion that some in our community gave to us in a time of great need.

Donate what money you can to help pay for Kevin Drummond's Military Cross. Send a cheque or money order to:Huronia Museum, 549 Little Lake Park Road, Midland, Ontario, L4R 4P4. JamieHunter               705.526.2844        705.526.2844

On November 23, attend theMidland Council meeting where they will discuss the future of the DrummondWall. Your voice will build on others giving strength as do the stones in the wall.

Give a membership to the Huronia Museum as a Christmas gift. Museums keep watch when we don't.


Written by Bonnie Rourke 

Printed in the Midland  Free Press in November 2009



Below are two another articles about this same wall posted by Douglas Glynn

The Drummond wall 

"The story isn't about me," says a modest John Wilford.

In a way, it isn't. It's about a wall; not just any wall, but the Drummond wall that graces the entrance to what was once Georgian Lodge on Fuller Ave.

But it is about Wilford's determination to save the wall which he describes as "a tribute to the Scottish stone masons who erected this magnificent boundary without the aid of mortar, fitting each stone to produce a continuous wall and gated-entry to one of Midland's most famous estates."

If he hadn't sat down last month and written a letter appealing to the Midland heritage committee and Councillor Judy Contin "to recognize the historic significance of this wall" and urging that "its future be protected and, if possible, preserved and incorporated into the development plans for this property" there might not be a story.

The heritage committee, which had the wall's preservation on the back burner, has now moved it to the top of its priority list. (Please see story on Front Page )

When the retired mechanical engineer first heard four or five years ago that the Drummond property had been bought by a developer, he telephoned the late Councillor Bill Thompson and heritage committee chair Bill Smith to inquire about the wall's fate.

At that time, there were no specific plans for the property. Since then, a subdivision has been planned. Once the site plan for the project is approved, the strip of land on which the wall sits will become the property of the Town of Midland and the land could (in 5 to 15 years) become a curve in the roadway.

"I'm not a historian, but I am an admirer of excellent craftsmanship," Wilford said Wednesday, suggesting he would like to see the town preserve the wall's "historically significant features. "The talent that goes into stonework amazes me. Whenever I look at that wall, particularly the side walls which haven't been disturbed, I stand in awe of the skill of the craftsman who created it.

"Some of the front of the wall on Fuller Ave. has been broken down at times and rebuilt, but the sidewall gives you a good idea of what the original looked like. "It's just a masterpiece of stone-fitting; a natural built up wall. There's still a few people around who can do this work."

Raised in Midland, Wilford and his wife, the late Beverley Boyd, lived most of the past half century in Peterborough, where he worked for General Electric. The couple visited Midland regularly and moved back four years ago and turned their cottage into a permanent home.



Giving their all to save a wall.

"It was built by two scotsmen who learned their craft in the Old Country. Each stone is placed to fit the other without benefit of mortar, built to last until Doomsday."

- Nosing in the Past: Life and Times in Huronia 

When author Mary Haskill penned those words about the Drummond wall on Fuller Avenue, she likely had no idea "Doomsday" might be around the next bend in the road.

That next bend - a realignment of Fuller Avenue with a new intersection at Harbourview Drive slated to occur five to 15 years from now - would include using the land on which the century-old wall sits to widen Fuller Avenue.

If the road widening goes ahead, the existing Fuller Avenue hill would be lowered to increase drivers' sight distances, necessitating the removal of the wall and gates that graced the entrance to Georgian Lodge, the Drummond house, destroyed by fire in 1980.

The prospect of the fence being removed is raising concerns.

Midland's heritage committee has asked town council to modify the Fuller Avenue development to ensure the retention of the wall as a heritage feature.

Counc. Bob Jeffery, who drove along Fuller Avenue to get to work for 32 years, says the wall should be left where it is. "I don't see why we need a new road to speed up traffic." He voted against the road realignment five years ago.

Counc. Pat File, council's representative on the heritage committee, said it's time to recognize that heritage is more than a word: "it's our spiritual connection with the pioneers who built this community."

Bill Smith, former heritage committee chair and co-author of Midland on Georgian Bay - an illustrated history of Midland, Ontario, believes keeping the wall would be "an important step in beginning to recognize the value of heritage in Midland."

Chris Millington, heritage committee chair, told a committee meeting this week he believes there will be a groundswell of public support to save the wall once people become aware that it may be lost.

Before it can persuade council to reconsider current plans, however, the heritage committee has some hurdles to overcome.

Council's response to the committee's request to retain the wall has been to suggest the committee hire a consultant to establish the wall's historical value and to determine its structural stability.

But the committee doesn't have a budget to hire a consultant to carry out a heritage impact study and will have to ask council for the funding.

The committee will likely make its case at an environmental assessment (EA) public meeting this summer dealing with the 2008 EA update, which includes the Fuller Avenue realignment. Doug Baker, town engineer, said that his department is having an archeological study carried out in conjunction with the EA.

Then, the committee will have to present its case to council.

"The wall is the last vestige of a link with the Drummond family and a colourful era of Midland's history at the dawn of the twentieth century," said Millington.

A planning department report describes the wall as being 145 m (475 ft.) in length, which follows the contours of the land and varies in height.

"It is constructed of cut granite stone with a mortar pointing," the report says. "There are three gate openings, each framed with cut stone pilasters and capped with what would appear to be cut and chamfered limestone. The southern gate pilasters have Georgian Lodge embossed on the limestone cap. This gate appears to be the main vehicular entrance into the Estate while the middle one was for a pedestrian walkway and the northern appears to be a secondary maintenance entrance."

The wall is part of a five-metre swath of land designated that will be deeded to the town once the plan of subdivision is registered.

What sparked the heritage committee's request to save the wall was a letter it received in March from John Wilford, making a plea that the wall be preserved and incorporated in the proposed subdivision on the property.

Smith said the committee was unaware of the planned road realignment and the impact it would have on the wall.

The wall surrounded the home of George Drummond, manager of the Midland Operations of the Canada Iron Corporation, known as the Canada Iron and Furnace Company.

The committee presentation to council noted that Drummond and his family were "part social elite that helped shape the economic well being of Midland and the start of the 20th century." At its peak, the company employed about 350 men and its payroll was said to be the largest in Simcoe County.

"This structure (the wall) remains as a reminder of the economic and social history of Midland and is an example of a simple and masterful craft that is seldom seen and preserved today. It serves as a reminder that our past can share the present and add value to our lives," the committee submission said.

By way of explanation for the road widening, a report provided to the planning advisory committee last week observed that during the initial review of the CMRI subdivision plan in 2001, it was recommended by staff that an Environmental Assessment (EA) be undertaken to determine the most appropriate design for improvements to the Fuller Avenue/Harbourview Drive corridor.

"This study addressed design criteria for both intersections and identified lands required to effect the road improvements," the report said. "The municipality," it added, "will also be required to acquire additional lands from the former Masonic Temple lands and the entire property of the late Art Evans in order to complete the land assembly for the road realignment." 


Posted in The Midland Free Press by Douglas Glynn